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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France Gains Sweet Revenge in Fed Cup




France routed Russia 3-0 in its Fed Cup pool C tie Thursday to avenge a heart-breaking defeat by the same opponents last year.


In the decisive match, Julie Halard-Decugis beat Anna Kournikova 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, giving the French an insurmountable 2-0 lead and spoiling Kournikova's Fed Cup return.


Kournikova, who lives in the United States, was playing her first Fed Cup match since 1997 after refusing to represent her country, but offered little resistance except in the second set.


After losing the first set in just 27 minutes and falling behind 2-0 in the second, Kournikova claimed the next six games to take that set 6-2. But she was outplayed again in the third.


French captain Guy Forget chose to play Halard-Decugis instead of France's No. 1 Nathalie Tauziat in the singles.


A year ago in the Fed Cup semifinals on the same Moscow court, Tauziat lost both of her singles matches and was blamed by the French media for a 3-2 defeat to Russia.


"All of us came here with something to prove, and we were very focused tonight," said Halard-Decugis. "But we still have two more matches to play so we must remain focused."


Sandrine Testud beat Yelena Likhovtseva 6-1, 6-4 in just over one hour in the first match to give the French a 1-0 lead.


"I played solidly, more consistently than Likhovtseva," said Testud. "She is an up and down player and obviously looking at the scoreline she was down. She usually relies on her serve a lot, but today she didn't serve very well."


Likhovtseva had eight double faults and 33 unforced errors while hitting only 12 winners.


In the doubles, Halard-Decugis teamed up with Tauziat to complete the rout, beating Kournikova and Likhovtseva in straight sets 6-3, 7-6.


In the opening tie, Belgium, playing without three of its top players, registered a 2-1 win against Australia.


Laurence Courtois put the Belgians ahead with a 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Nicole Pratt, but Australia's Jelena Dokic leveled the match by beating Kim Clijsters 7-6, 5-7, 9-7.


Finally, Courtois teamed up with Els Callens to pull off a 1-6, 6-0, 10-8 victory over Alicia Molik and Rennae Stubbs in the decisive doubles, which lasted more than two hours.


A Swiss team without world No. 2 Martina Hingis swept aside hosts Slovakia to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in their opening pool B contest in Bratislava on Thursday.


The Swiss joined the Czech Republic as first-day winners in four-way round-robin play in the Slovak capital.


World No. 28 Patty Schnyder trounced Slovak No. 1 Karina Habsudova in 53 minutes 6-1, 6-4, after Emmanuelle Gagliardi gave the Swiss the early lead with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 comeback win over Henrieta Nagyova in front of a small and subdued home crowd.


Earlier, world number 12 Barbara Schett lost in three sets as the Czech Republic beat Austria 2-1.


In Bari, Italy, the one-two punch of Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario rolled over their Italian opponents in the singles matches Thursday to lead Spain to a 3-0 win in the first leg of the Group A qualifying round-robin.


Tenth-ranked Sanchez-Vicario cruised past Giulia Casoni 6-1, 6-1, and then watched her eighth-ranked teammate Martinez beat Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 6-3 to assure the win for Spain, a five-time Fed Cup champion.


Earlier in the day, Anke Huber cruised in her singles match and teamed with Barbara Rittner to take the doubles as 1992 Champion Germany defeated Croatia 2-1 in the other first leg competition.